After we arrived back to the capital city of Engelburg, the entire party reported to the castle to give the good news and introduce the islands’ representatives.
Surprised to see Katalina back so soon, King Reginald breathed a sigh of relief after we had told him about our favorable terms in opening trade between the countries.
“I see… So you managed to create a different bargaining chip. This has worked out much better than I had imagined. I have you two to thank for bringing my daughter home safely to me, Viscountess Faulkner and Knight Evers.” The king bowed his head slightly. Prince Oswald kept looking at us with an unamused expression.
“Then, the country of Macali shall become our allies, I take it?” Oswald inquired of Merona and Lyucel.
“Let’s not be hasty. The only agreement so far has been to establish a trading relationship with these people.” Merona pointed to us. “Alliances are a separate thing, not until we have learned more about this country and how we can draw mutual benefit from our relations.”
Oswald looked like he was about to say something, but the king cut him off.
“That is permissible. I see this as a major step in tearing down the wall that the country of Macali has erected for centuries. From what I hear so far, there is much that we can learn from each other. Let us understand one another for the sake of the future.”
The king looked towards Eryn and me. “I assume that the two of you will give our guests the attention they will need for this relationship to thrive. Can I ask this of you?”
Eryn bowed to the king. “Yes, with myself at the helm and the full efforts of the Faulkner trading company, we will ensure its success!”
“Good. Is there anything else? No? Then, I will leave you to do your work.”
Eryn, Merona, Lyucel, and I headed out of the audience chamber and started walking towards the trading company to start our arrangements.
After we had left, Katalina stepped forward.
“Father, after seeing the incredible technology of that country, I am convinced that we could be doing more to help our fellow countrymen. The general populace of Macali has incredible aptitude in basic magic skills and an advanced understanding of magical tools. Should we not be providing this to our people as well, rather than segregating this knowledge to only the few in the nobility? Should we not raise the capabilities of the common man so that they may serve the country and bring about increased prosperity to all?”
Oswald sneered at her statement.
“My dear sister. That is asking for trouble. You would buck our traditions and give unsubdued power to the commoners? Why, that would cause a riot! Just like that little incident with the Duke, we’ll have people overthrowing us in no time!”
“Not if there is a good king! I have seen it! The people adore the king of Macali! Granted that he is not the perfect person for the job, he inspires freedom and confidence among the people such that they openly support him!”
Oswald stood up in a rage.
“Are you implying that I won’t be a good king?! You, a hermit who hides in some corner and plays with toys all day, dare to judge me?!”
Having felt offended that his current role of protecting the country was being marginalized, he snapped at his older sister.
“Then, I won’t hide any longer! Give me a role in this kingdom, not as a chess piece to pawn off to another country! After this trip, I realized that I was only holding myself back!”
“What can you do-“
King Reginald banged his fist on the arm of the throne. “Enough!”
Immediately, his two children shut up. Looking at the two of them, he continued.
“Daughter, this is the first time you have expressed such a strong opinion. I am aware of the impact that some of your ideas may hold, both good and bad. Now, you say you wish to do much more. Have you fully thought out the consequences of such actions? You can no longer hide in the veil of obscurity.”
The king had long known of her dual identity as Katsys the inventor and had allowed her that much freedom. There was no harm in letting a princess mingle with her people in secret. Her intellect and curiosity were similar to that of the late Queen after all. In contrast, Prince Oswald scoffed at the playthings that his sister would obsess over. In his mind, the might of the nation coincided with military strength and control of the people. Royalty and nobility were entitled to greater power because of their roles as protectors.
“Yes, Father. I am fully prepared for the criticism my creations may bear. I cannot hide behind a persona that could easily disappear when things go sour and hope to push my ideals forward.”
“Then, I would like to see this through. The two of you are the future of this kingdom. I cannot rule for much longer. I feel it in my bones.”
“That cannot be! Your strength has barely deteriorated in the face of enemies!” Katalina shot back.
“On the surface, yes. My warrior spirit and fighting power are bolstered by the gear that I have on. But there is no doubt that I have barely the strength to swing more than a few times. I would like to see what you have in store while I’m still able to. For that reason, Princess Katalina, I give you a new role – the royal inventor. See to it that this title befits the one who holds it.”
“Thank you, Father. I will be sure to show you what I’m capable of!” Katalina said with a bow.
Prince Oswald silently brooded while sitting in his chair.
Arriving at the capital branch of the Faulkner trading company, I was suddenly left to deal with the arrangements on my own. After seeing that she couldn’t really be of much help, Eryn excused herself to return home.
“Eh? Why the hurry? You just got back,” I called out to her.
“I need to ask Pietro for some training. This trip has made me feel inadequate.”
After facing off against fighters much stronger than her, she couldn’t take that lying down. Certainly, training under a famous figure would help her swordplay, but I winced at how rough my experience was with him. Unlike Pietro, Eryn’s magic abilities were very high, so I wondered how adding mana strikes to her repertoire would help when she had plenty of long-distance destructive magic. The technique was geared towards those without magic abilities.
With that, I was left with Merona and Lyucel, along with the guild staff, to write up the trade agreements. After taking a look at the document that had been written, I handed it back to one of the staff.
“In exchange for detailed instructions of umami ingredient production, the country of Macali agrees to allow full entry permissions for the Faulkner trading company. Furthermore, a trading branch will be established inside of the country’s boundaries in the near future. For a trial period of 6 months, trading shall be conducted in such a manner before competing companies are allowed to join in the market.”
One of the scribes in the guild read off the arrangement, in which we all agreed to. Giving our trading company access to the country was already a powerful move that would set us apart from the other merchants. Furthermore, the specified time frame allowed for us to work out any kinks before opening trade to the public. Now, we just had to think of what business to promote. Luckily, the answer fell upon us easily.
“Mmm… I really like this bubbly drink. What do you call it?” Lyucel sipped happily at the refreshment that was provided.
“Cola. I’m guessing you don’t have this in your country?” I answered.
Seeing her shake her head, I offered it as a trade item, since it would likely be nostalgic for the otherworlder Koujiro. Lyucel pulled out a device in which she dialed a few buttons. Moments later, the sound of Koujiro’s voice emitted from it. Somehow, they had already developed a magic tool to mimic a cell phone.
“Yes? Do you have something to report?”
“My King, I have discovered something called ‘cola’ in this country, which Sir Evers has implied is something from your world.”
“Eh? Cola? Oh my god, it’s been forever since I’ve had a taste of that! Don’t tell me you have melon soda too?!”
As Koujiro continued to rant about it, I looked over at the two girls.
“I guess he wants it, from the sound of it. I haven’t gotten to the point of melon soda, mainly due to a lack of proper flavoring, but I’m sure we can come up with something in the future.”
Since melons grew everywhere in Macali, there was no doubt some of our people would be able to imitate its flavor soon enough. At least, he didn’t suggest something like Dr. Pepper. I had no idea how to imitate the mysterious concoction of 23 flavors favored by a certain mad scientist.
In exchange, I requested soy sauce in return.
I hadn’t expected to find it in such a place, but likely, it was Koujiro’s influence that led to its creation. After all, there were so many traces of his involvement in other things. Maybe, it was selfish of me to decide on my own, but Eryn did leave the arrangements to me. I couldn’t wait to cook up a fresh batch of fried rice using this topping. Speaking of which, there were many Asian-style dishes where soy sauce was a staple ingredient. I couldn’t help but start salivating at the prospects.
In the meantime, Merona and Lyucel merely sighed as the two of us guys had drifted off into our stomach-induced wonderland.
“Those two are so alike. Isn’t it great that our dear king has found a friend?” Merona turned to Lyucel, who promptly nodded.
“If only the world could be united by such simple means. Looks like we’ll be returning home soon with more ways to entice our dear king.” Their eyes held a suspicious glint.
By the time that I arrived back home, it was already close to evening. All that talk about food had made me famished. Opening the gate to our mansion, I heard the distinct sounds of weapons clashing in the courtyard.
Already guessing who the combatants were, I saw Pietro sending mana waves toward Eryn who swung her sword in defense, seemingly trying to bat them out of the air. I thought it was strange, because she could have easily dodged them, but she showed no sign of moving away from her fixed stance.
As I stared at the scene of Eryn being pummeled by mana strikes, my memories of standing in her place caused me to flinch. Each impact that broke through and collided into her body was sympathetically felt by my own. Suddenly, I felt arms wrapping around my neck. The sudden heaviness on my back caused the arms to tighten around my throat, putting me into a chokehold.
Unable to resist, I fell backwards and onto my butt.
“Master! Welcome home!” Ludmila said in her normal, monotone voice, still holding on tightly. However, with us both sitting down, I no longer had any issue breathing.
“Ludmila! How the heck did you sneak up on me so easily?” I was a bit surprised at her entrance. After using my ability so much, I had developed a sensitivity to another’s presence through their mana. Yet, she had managed to sneak up on me quite easily.
I looked at her stats in curiosity.
“Level 40?! Since when?! Who the heck is training you?! Pietro?”
“No, Uncle doesn’t think I’m suitable to be a swordsman.”
Wait, what? Carina was responsible for this? How? I thought she was just an innocent cooking mascot! The one time I viewed her stats, she was supposedly a Level 5 grandma! I was so confused at this point.
At that moment, Carina called out to all of us for dinner. When she turned around, I checked her stats once again. It read the same as always. However, I suddenly heard her whistling as she slowly walked away, the same expression as normal on her face. When was the last time I saw a person her age walk with such a spring in her step? Not to mention, she also lifted heavy things with ease. I had not noticed before, but she was far more capable than some people half as old.
I thought I heard her chuckle as I continued to stare at her back in wonder.